Tuolumne County officials are planning what to do with an estimated $24.5 million over the next five years from California’s most recent gas tax and vehicle fee increases.

People, equipment, projects and facilities are the four top priorities for the funding, which is expected to be short of what the county needs by about $40 million.

The county is required to submit a list to the California Transportation Commission of projects that it plans to complete over the next five years with funding from Senate Bill 1, which increased the state’s tax on gasoline by 12 cents per gallon and vehicle registration fees by $25 to $175 a year.

About $2.2 million of the estimated $24.5 million would be spent to replace decaying old buildings at the work yards for county roads crews in Tuolumne, Jamestown, Big Oak Flat and Pinecrest, according to the proposed list.

The “east shop” work yard at 18870 Birch Street in Tuolumne has an exterior wall that’s been destroyed by woodpeckers, water leaks that have caused major damage to the ceiling of the locker room, and a ceiling in the main meeting room that’s caving in and being held up by plywood.

There are holes in the tin roof of the “south shop” at 11240 Wards Ferry Road in Big Oak Flat, which leads to water leaks that are deteriorating the cross beams supporting the structure. All water in the shop, including the toilet, freezes when it gets below 32 degrees due to a lack of insulation and heating.

Birds nest in holes in the ceiling at the “west shop” in Jamestown, which also has structural gaps that allow rodents to get inside.

The roof at the county’s equipment shed near Pinecrest has also shifted out of plane and caused an interior wooden column that supports the structure to buckle.

According to the proposed list of projects, the shed in Pinecrest would be replaced in the next year and the others would be replaced in 2022 or 2023.

Another priority would be hiring three more road workers and an engineering technician to inspect culverts.

Staffing in the county’s road crews has decreased by 32 percent over the past eight years, from 38 between 2005 and 2011 to 26 currently due to declining revenue. Crews are supposed to consist of nine people but have six each, which limits the amount of maintenance and repair work they can do.

The additional employees would cost an average of about $240,000 each year.

About $190,000 would used in the next fiscal year to purchase five new trucks for road crews.

Tanya Allen, supervising engineer for the county, told the Board of Supervisors’ Transportation Committee on Monday that most of the county’s vehicles for roads crews are outdated and won’t meet emission standards in the next five years.

The committee, which is headed by county supervisors John Gray and Ryan Campbell, approved the proposed uses for the SB1 money. The full board will consider the proposed list at a meeting on Tuesday.

Most of the money the county receives from SB1 in the next year would go toward projects to repair and improve roads. There were three proposed in the next fiscal year, including a $1 million for Tuolumne Road North, $400,000 for Tuolumne Road and $110,000 for Standard Road.

The amount of money from SB1 going to road maintenance and improvement projects would drop to as low as 6 percent, which was a concern raised by Darin Grossi, executive director of the Tuolumne County Transportation Council.

Grossi suggested adding more physical projects in the future because the public was told that the purpose of SB1 was primarily to repair deteriorating roads.

“That won’t look good to the public to have 6 percent going to maintenance in some years,” he said.

Nearly 57 percent of California voters rejected Proposition 6 in the election last November that would have repealed SB1, while about 81 percent supported Proposition 69 that amended the state’s constitution to require that money from the gas tax and vehicle fee increases be used for transportation-related purposes.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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